Most men with early prostate cancer don’t have any signs or symptoms. That's why it's important to know your risk.
If you do notice changes in the way you urinate, this is more likely to be a sign of a very common non-cancerous problem called an enlarged prostate, or another health problem. But it’s still a good idea to get it checked out. Possible symptoms include:
- difficulty starting to urinate or emptying your bladder
- a weak flow when you urinate
- a feeling that your bladder hasn’t emptied properly
- dribbling urine after you finish urinating
- needing to urinate more often than usual, especially at night
- a sudden need to urinate – you may sometimes leak urine before you get to the toilet.
Men with early prostate cancer will often have no symptoms because of the way the cancer grows. You’ll usually only get early symptoms if the cancer grows near the tube you urinate through (the urethra) and presses against it, changing the way you urinate (wee). But because prostate cancer usually starts to grow in a different part (usually the outer part) of the prostate, early prostate cancer doesn’t often press on the urethra and cause symptoms.
If prostate cancer breaks out of the prostate (locally advanced prostate cancer) or spreads to other parts of the body (advanced prostate cancer), it can cause other symptoms, including:
- back pain, hip pain or pelvis pain
- problems getting or keeping an erection
- blood in the urine or semen
- unexplained weight loss.
These symptoms can all be caused by other health problems. But it’s still a good idea to tell your GP about any symptoms so they can find out what’s causing them and make sure you get the right treatment, if you need it.
It was a shock when I was told I had prostate cancer at the age of 51. I knew I was more likely to be diagnosed because my Dad was living with the disease, but the result still really knocked me. Like many men, I was symptomless.
How do you know if you have prostate cancer?
There’s no way of knowing if you have prostate cancer without visiting your doctor, as most men with early prostate cancer don’t have any symptoms. If you do have symptoms they can be caused by other things.
And you can’t check for prostate cancer yourself.
There are some things that may mean you're more likely to get prostate cancer. You might hear these described as prostate cancer risk factors. Even if you don't have any of the symptoms that we talk about above, speak to your GP about prostate cancer if:
- you are aged 50 or over
- your father or brother has had prostate cancer
- you are black.
Your GP can give you more information or tests if necessary.
If you're not sure about what to say to your GP, print and fill out this form and show it to them. This will help you have the conversation.
Read more about things that can increase your risk of prostate cancer.
I thought I could be at risk after learning that African Caribbean men are more likely to get prostate cancer than white men.
References and reviewers
Updated: July 2022 | To be reviewed: July 2023
- Aaron L, Franco O, Hayward S. Review of Prostate Anatomy and Embryology and the Etiology of BPH. Urol Clin North Am. 2016;43(3):279-288. doi:10.1016/j.ucl.2016.04.012
- Cancer Research UK. Prostate cancer incidence statistics: Prostate cancer incidence by age (2011-2013). http://www.cancerresearchuk.org/health-professional/cancer-statistics/statistics-by-cancer-type/prostate-cancer/incidence. Accessed December 12, 2018.
- Collin SM, Metcalfe C, Donovan J, et al. Associations of lower urinary tract symptoms with prostate-specific antigen levels, and screen-detected localized and advanced prostate cancer: a case-control study nested within the UK population-based ProtecT (Prostate testing for cancer and Treatment) study. BJU Int. 2008;102(0):1400-1406. doi:10.1111/j.1464-410X.2008.07817.x
- Kheirandish P, Chinegwundoh F. Ethnic differences in prostate cancer. Br J Cancer. 2011;105(4):481-485. doi:10.1038/bjc.2011.273
- Kiciński M, Vangronsveld J, Nawrot TS. An Epidemiological Reappraisal of the Familial Aggregation of Prostate Cancer: A Meta-Analysis. PLoS ONE. 2011;6(10):e27130. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0027130
- National Institute for Health and Care Excellence. Lower urinary tract symptoms in men: assessment and management. NICE Clinical Guideline 97. June 2010. https://www.nice.org.uk/guidance/cg97.
- National Institute for Health and Care Excellence. Prostate Cancer: diagnosis and treatment. Full guideline 175. January 2014.
- National Institute for Health and Care Excellence. Suspected cancer: recognition and referral. NICE Guideline 12. June 2015, updated 2017. http://www.nice.org.uk/guidance/ng12/evidence/full-guidance-65700685.
- Public Health England. Prostate cancer risk management programme (PCRMP): benefits and risks of PSA testing. March 2016. https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/prostate-cancer-risk-management-programme-psa-test-benefits-and-risks/prostate-cancer-risk-management-programme-pcrmp-benefits-and-risks-of-psa-testing.
- Rebbeck TR, Devesa SS, Chang B-L, et al. Global Patterns of Prostate Cancer Incidence, Aggressiveness, and Mortality in Men of African Descent. Prostate Cancer. 2013;2013:1-12. doi:10.1155/2013/560857
- Speakman M, Kirby R, Doyle S, Ioannou C. Burden of male lower urinary tract symptoms (LUTS) suggestive of benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH) - focus on the UK: Burden of male LUTS suggestive of BPH. BJU Int. 2015;115(4):508-519. doi:10.1111/bju.12745
This information has been reviewed and updated by:
- our Health Information Team
- our Specialist Nurses.